Climate change is the most consequential challenge facing our planet andCommunities are struggling to do more with less water, fish and wildlife are fighting to survive, and storms are triggering more life-threatening floods. Our clean water and rivers will suffer permanently if we don’t take immediate action.
to learn more about Protecting Healthy Rivers, Planning for Scarcity, Managing Floodwaters and Prioritizing Equities.
Our air, water and homes are threatened!
Understanding Essential Fish Habitat
Essential fish habitat includes coral reefs, kelp forests, bays, wetlands, rivers, and even areas of the deep ocean that are necessary for fish reproduction, growth, feeding, and shelter. Marine fish could not survive without these vital, healthy habitats.
What is essential fish habitat?
Essential fish habitat, also known as EFH, is like real estate for fish. It includes all types of aquatic habitat and, in practice, specifies where a certain fish species lives and reproduces. Marine fish could not survive without these prime locations. Congress established the EFH mandate in 1996 to improve the nation’s main fisheries law—the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act—highlighting the importance of healthy habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries. Essential fish habitat covers federally managed fish and invertebrates, but it does not apply to strictly freshwater species. Species not covered by EFH, such as lake trout, might be managed by a state or local authority.
Why is essential fish habitat protection necessary?
Both the recreational and commercial sectors of our economy and fishing industry benefit from stable fisheries and high-quality seafood. U.S. commercial and recreational fishing generated $208 billion in sales, contributed $97 billion to the gross domestic product, and supported 1.6 million full- and part-time jobs in 2015. Healthy habitats make this happen. They also provide countless opportunities for outdoor recreation and can protect our coasts and communities from storm impacts.
Where is essential fish habitat?
Think of places where baby fish hide, such as in seagrasses, mangrove roots, and rocky shorelines. Also, think about the rivers where adult salmon migrate to breed and the coral reefs where many species look for food. These areas provide the habitats that shelter and sustain marine fish. Depending on the fish species, EFH could include the deep sea, coral reefs, kelp forests, bays, wetlands, and rivers that connect to the ocean. Essential fish habitat includes all types of aquatic habitat where fish spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity. You can search for the habitat of a specific species using the EFH Mapper tool. Essential fish habitat does not apply to enclosed freshwater habitat, such as the Great Lakes.
Who decides what fish habitat is essential?
NOAA Fisheries is responsible for identifying and describing essential fish habitat for sharks, tuna, and other highly migratory species that cross regional boundaries. For other managed fish species, regional fishery management councils determine what habitats and what locations meet the definition of EFH. Species by species, the councils develop and update in-depth fishery management plans that include EFH information and guide the application of EFH authorities.
Where can I learn more about essential fish habitat?
For the Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho region, see the The Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Salmon Habitat Restoration Projects: Rootwads being installed on the South Fork, students planting trees in the riparian zone on the Coquille River River (photos, K. Miles)
Bandon Community Radio’s Executive Director, Kelly Miles, is a former Port of Bandon Commissioner and spent nearly 8 years as the Director of the Coquille Watershed Association in Coquille, Oregon. She is passionate about marine and river ecology, and was fortunate to work with many fine landowners and biologists on dozens of salmon habitat restoration and water quality projects. To find out how you can help the southern & coastal watersheds in Oregon, visit these links:
Coquille Watershed Association
Wild Rivers Land Trust
MidCoast Watersheds Council
Oregon Coast Alliance
While with the Watershed Association, Kelly was honored to work with renowned fish passage engineer, Răzvan Voicu, PhD, on river restoration papers published in the Transylvanian Review of Systematical and Ecological Research in Sibiu, Romania. You can view some of Dr. Voicu’s papers below:
New Paper!: Sediments As Factor In The Fate Of The Threatened Endemic Fish Species ROMANICHTHYS VALSANICOLA
System with folding resistant plastic baffles and horizontal movable sheet piles for metal or concrete tubes
Facilitation Fish Migration Above The Discharge Sill Located On The Ialomiţa River Near Cave Ialomicioara
Cottus Gobio Linnaeus, Ecological Status And Management Elements In Maramureş Mountains Nature Park (Romania)
Currently, in Romania, the restoration of the longitudinal connectivity of the rivers is still in its beginning stages and many of the spillways and dams need migration systems. Dr. Răzvan Voicu, among one of the few specialists in this field, has designed various fish crossing systems over transverse hydrotechnical constructions. Some of them have been published with various foreign experts (US, Australia, Canada, Poland) certifying the correctness and engineering effectiveness of these proposed systems. The only (partial) design that has been put into working practice as of yet is at the Mănăstirea Dam in Cluj County (see pictures below taken by Melinda Haragus Sipos).